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K9 Officers Guide To Dealing With Deadly Force Issues - The Aftermath

R.S. Eden

Unfortunately it is becoming more frequent for officers in todays law enforcement to get involved in lethal confrontations. Situations are all too frequent that result in the death of a suspect, the officer, an innocent victim, and even the dog. This is a difficult subject to approach as many officers have differ ent viewpoints on deadly confrontations. When you are in a situation where you must use deadly force to protect yourself or another person from grievous bodily harm or death, you are making a decision that will affect you for the rest of your life.

That decision cannot be made only at the point of confron tation. You must be mentally prepared to deal with the possibil ity that you might have to use deadly force in the course of your duty. If you cannot prepare for that, and prefer not to think about such things, then you are a danger to yourself, your fellow officers, and the citizens you protect.

At the time of confrontation you must make a split second judgment to shoot. In that tiny capsule of time you must decide whether it is legally appropriate under the circumstances and if there is any less reasonable means in order to protect yourself or someone else. You must judge the situation and determine if you can safely fire at the suspect without endangering bystand ers. There is a lot of decision making taking place in the space of a split second, and that decision needs to be made. The time of the confrontation is not the time for you to start making a moral decision as to whether or not you are capable of employing deadly force. It is never an easy decision to make, however the morality of applying deadly force must be dealt with before you ever hit the streets as a police officer. Emotions that deal with morals can cause you to hesitate. The suspect can kill you or another innocent person before you can react if you are suddenly wrestling with your personal feelings on the use of deadly force.

Should you encounter a situation that requires you to take the life of another person in the course of your duties, be prepared for the aftermath. You will second guess yourself. Others will second guess you. Often you will feel remorse and guilty for what you have done. This is not wrong, nor is it unnatural, and you will need to talk about it.

Most officers feel a need to talk about it with someone, and yet often their fellow officers seem hesitant to bring the situation up, due to the sensitive nature of the subject. Don’t be afraid to share your experience with those around you, and if you need to talk to someone, approach a friend you can trust and just talk it out.

Nothing can change the events that have occurred, so don’t try to do so by second guessing yourself. It can only lead to confusion and self destruction. Time will heal, and remember that you must be able to hit the streets being fully capable of going into a similar situation without hesitation. If you are not prepared to do so, you are a danger to yourself and your fellow officers.

A K9 handler in particular has to keep in mind another aspect of mental preparation. Your dog is your partner. He will give you his loyalty and his love to the end. We all become attached to our dogs in a way that many people do not understand. From the beginning of training a special bond is built between the dog and the handler that is instrumental in the dog perform ing to the highest standard. That bond can only be built from a genuine love for the animal and a dedication to the training program with the dog.

The dog is your partner, friend, and also a much loved companion at home with the family. Anything that occurs on the job that results in the death of the dog not only affects the handler, but has a profound affect on his family as well.

If your dog is shot while actively pursuing a suspect, it does not justify your shooting the suspect unless your life is in immediate danger. You cannot let your emotions take over. In particular, if you see your dog go down, do not get distracted by the pain of seeing your partner hit. You must concentrate on the suspect in a detached and precision manner, or you will be put ting yourself at extreme risk. Control your fear and emotions and you will come out a survivor.

Note: More advanced information on this subject during sessions instructed at the International Police K9 Conferences held annually in various locations throughout North America.

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